(Reuters) - Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton accused stewards of trying to stop him winning by imposing time penalties in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix and said he would have to stay ‘squeaky clean’ to avoid a race ban.
The punishment, for infringements before the race in Sochi had even started, cost the six-times world champion the lead and the chance of a record-equalling 91st career victory.
The Mercedes driver finished third after starting on pole position.
Asked if the punishment seemed excessive, he told Sky Sports television: “Of course it is. But it’s to be expected. They’re trying to stop me, aren’t they?”
“But it’s OK. I just need to keep my head down and stay focused and we’ll see what happens.”
Hamilton said he would need to check the rules after being punished for practice starts outside of the designated area on his way to the grid.
“I’m pretty sure no-one’s got two five-second penalties for something so ridiculous before,” he added.
“I didn’t put anyone in danger. I’ve done this at a million tracks over the years and never been questioned on it. So it is what it is.”
The stewards also handed Hamilton two penalty points, leaving him two short of incurring a mandatory one-race ban triggered by 12 in a 12-month period, but later rescinded them after Mercedes said the driver was acting on their instructions.
The stewards found the audio between team and driver confirmed this.
Asked whether he really felt targeted, Hamilton told reporters any team running at the front came under a lot of scrutiny.
“Everything we have on our car is being checked and triple-checked. They are changing rules, such as the engine regs, lots of things to get in the way to keep the racing exciting, I assume.”
Hamilton said the stewards were handing out too many penalty points.
“It’s ridiculous the points they have been giving people this year in general,” he said. “I’ll just make sure I’m squeaky clean moving forwards, don’t give them an excuse for anything.”
The Briton received four at the Austrian Grand Prix weekend in July for ignoring yellow flags in qualifying and a race incident with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.
There were also two for entering the Italian Grand Prix pitlane after it had closed. The other two date from last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean, in 2012, was the last F1 driver to serve a ban.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis
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